Crikey Says

Dec 18, 2012

Crikey says: robbing aid to pay for a Solution

"The new fight against a gun culture of symbolism and psychopathy has begun," writes Guy Rundle in Connecticut. The policy hits and misses of 2012. Kim Dalton on seven years leading ABC TV. Why Gotye is between poachers and rangers. And has God really wagged school?

Our foreign aid budget, it seems, is a convenient hollow log for a government desperate to keep its chances of delivering a surplus intact but facing soaring costs from a huge surge in asylum seekers arriving by boat. Offshore processing of asylum seekers is expensive -- extraordinarily so compared to processing here in Australia. In the case of the revamped Pacific Solution, the goal is not processing of any kind but delay -- long delays. This makes Australia's current policy even more expensive. By funding this exorbitant cost from the foreign aid budget, the government makes the nonsensical argument that looking after refugees in Australia is the same as foreign aid "providing support for refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan". Instead what it reflects is that beneficiaries of our foreign aid program have no political clout, and that unlike most areas of the budget there is little political cost to cutting programs intended to help those well below Australian standards of living. For once, Scott Morrison is correct in suggesting this is merely "robbing Peter to pay Paul", although perhaps the names are a little inapt given what we are describing. Labor's asylum seeker policy has led it into some morally dubious areas. Combined with its determination to maintain a surplus, it produces outright absurd outcomes like this. This article originally referred incorrectly to Nauru and PNG, and has been amended.

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11 thoughts on “Crikey says: robbing aid to pay for a Solution

  1. Gavin Moodie

    True, but even so the Rudd Government has increased Australia’s foreign aid substantially.

  2. baabaablacksheep

    Most of foreign aid only help corrupted governments to create more refugees anyway.

    If they want to use the money effectively, use the money to raise an army for the UN to take over one country at a time to fix it. Economic development “teach them how to fish” projects are better than charity, but is is hard to get any of these programs going where there is chronic violence and corruption.

  3. Christopher Nagle

    There is no government ‘robbery’ here. Dealing with asylum seekers is a very expensive imposition on our foreign aid budget. Coping with refugees is foreign aid. It is the asylum seekers who are robbing our foreign aid budget, not the government. They force their way into our territory using criminal organizations that specialize in the abuse of UN refugee conventions, force their way in front of already processed refugees waiting to come here and hack into budgets that would be better used for vital resettlement programs that ensure that those who come here are successful. The ‘progressive’ high moral grounders do not seem to have the capacity to see just how disgracefully poor their moral and political judgment has become.

  4. alison lovai

    Both major parties have taken a hard line stance surrounding asylum seekers. The Liberal Party continually beats down on ALP’s policies, fueling the misguided notion that asylum seekers are ‘illegal non-citizens’ and boat operators are ‘people smugglers’. These terms are contrary to the international covenant for refugees and their right to seek asylum. The UN protocol defines ‘people smuggling’ as women and children who are sold into sexual slavery or people who are smuggled across borders against their will. Australia only shares 0.6 percent the world’s burden of refugee’s equivalent to two weeks population growth for Australia. In comparison Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta share the burden of 72,000 asylum seekers arriving along their coastline each year.
    Current management creates a huge burden to tax payers, particularly surrounding offshore detention which costs around $110,000 per year, per asylum seeker. In comparison community detention would cost as little as $20,000 in centrelink payments. Other costs include legal representation and charter flights costing between $20,000 and $100,000, used to ferry asylum seekers to and from island detention and for emergency medical evacuation. Increased aid packages to Nauru and PNG may be short lived due to the government’s intention to pull back aid to other countries to use for asylum seeker management in Australia. So the government will now conveniently takes ownership of the ‘illegal non-citizens’ in a deceptive bid to save money. It takes $2000 to save one refugee overseas, so do the sums for the lives that will be lost.

  5. CML

    I agree with Christopher Nagle. There is only ONE bucket of money to go around here. Unless the do-gooders are willing to pay a levy/increased taxation to pay for the very expensive asylum seeker program. NO, didn’t think so.
    This business of on shore processing being much less expensive may well be true, but the MAJORITY of Australians do NOT support this way of dealing with the problem. Mainly because it leads to no control over our own borders, and handing over our refugee program to the people smugglers. Now you can argue forever over the meaning of this description, but in the current situation, it means those who make a lot of money from transporting asylum seekers with the said money, on boats and into Australia. That situation cannot be allowed to continue.
    I don’t have a problem with the foreign aid funds being used to house and feed the boatpeople, who are essentially “foreigners”. Apparently this is done by many other western countries including the USA, Canada and some countries in Europe. Why is it a crime when Australia does it?
    And baabaa… The UN has absolutely no powers to invade a sovereign country, regardless of what might be happening there. As far as I am aware, that is one of the founding conventions of the UN. If it were otherwise, we would not have a UN, as no country would join an organisation that had the capacity to vote for invasion of its territory.

  6. baabaablacksheep

    I know CML, I was saying it tongue in cheek.

    The cheapest way is on shore together with very strong deterrence policies. Cheapest and most effective off-shore way is swapping with the countries in the region, especially those who threw away their paperworks.

    Apparently, most OECD countries use count their aid budget this way, it is normal practice and it was done by the Howard government too. They need to keep aid for those countries who voted for Australia on the UN bid, politically they can afford to cut aid to those who did not especially those corrupted and are the big creators of refugees.

  7. baabaablacksheep

    ahhh, I was meant to delete ‘use’.

  8. The Pav

    I don’t have a problem with the logic of the move my issues lie elsewhere

    Not spending enough and the surplus fixation but within the current constraints I don’t have a problem with the reasoning

    If the people were in another country then the funds would be regarded as foreign aid…oops hang on that’s the problem they are that’s why its called “Off shore processing’

    You can’t criticise offshore processing for being
    foreogn” then say the funds expended is “foreign aid”

  9. Liz45

    I disagree with almost EVERY aspect of the Govt’s and Opposition’s so called policy re asylum seekers who arrive by boat – this is relevant! Only about 5% arrive by boat – the rest by air, who are not treated in the same manner. Also, they don’t get hysterical about the approximately 50,000 who are here on any given day illegally – that is, their visas have expired or some other reason.

    The surplus? IF the Govt doesn’t have a surplus the Murdoch press will start or I should say, keep on with their policy of hatred and vilification. So, let’s just accept that the Labor Govt has no choice – if they can claim credibility, because that’s how it will be treated. I can almost see the TV ads now, along with the ones about Peter Slipper, and not one media outlet will challenge the Opposition on this untrue strategy! Let’s not make fact the victim in this debate. Anyone with any nouse knows what’s going on – unless they support the Coalition or are living in a bubble!

    What does the Opposition propose Labor ‘does’ with the asylum seekers? Shoot them? Put them in boats and release them on the ocean? Poison their food or water? It’s just plain ridiculous? They have no choice! The people are here – they need to be housed, fed etc. Plus, they should also be receiving trauma counselling, but probably aren’t. Look forward to health costs blowing out in future years. Kids suffering from awful effects of trauma in their home country only being aggravated by their detention in Australia. This is the legacy of Howard Govt, and will only be heightened by current ‘policies’ of this Govt. Don’t say you weren’t warned! You can’t do this to people without consequences! Those consequences will cost!

    When will a journalist question the Coalition on their Treasury statements re the cost of Nauru and Mannus Island, plus detention centres on home soil and community ‘detention’ costs. IF people don’t know that keeping people in detention is far more expensive than community detention, they should educate themselves. Also, Christmas Island (built by the Howard Govt – how much?) costs approximately $1000 per person per day, while Villawood is less than $300 per day, and community detention per person per day is the cheapest! Go figure!

    In recent times, men who viciously murder their wives have pleaded ‘provocation’ and sentenced to 6 years or less. Asylum seekers who’ve committed no crime by seeking asylum could be locked up(jailed) for at least 5 years! We have SO much to be proud of?????NOT!

  10. CML

    @ LIZ45 – As usual you ignore the wishes of the MAJORITY of Australians who do not want on-shore processing for the reasons I mentioned in my former post. You might wish it were otherwise, but it is NOT. Last time I looked this country was a democracy – the majority rules!
    You, and other refugee advocates, are not being truthful about ALL of the consequences of having no control over our borders, and handing our refugee policy over to criminal people smugglers. This is unacceptable for ANY country.

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